Here is the revised version of what it used to be.  At the end of each chapter, I'll put a small sneak peek for the next chapter.  Here's the summary.

~Summary~

On the planet Ria, a war took place that changed the very history of the planet.  It used to be a place where a race known as the Astrals reigned supreme.  However, they were wiped out by a demon bent on destruction.  After the defeat of the demon, the world returned to normal.  Thousands of years later, another demon appears, wanting the same thing as the first.  Total destruction.  A handful of warriors are the only defense for the world now.  After her town was burned, a cold martial artist, known as Nataki, decided to join a young girl, Taiyo, on her journey.  On their way, they meet new people, including the novice thief, Dimero, a man with a never ending amount of secrets.  He isn't the only one, however.  Nataki has a few hidden secrets as well, hidden even from herself.  They'll have to find a way to put a power mad empress out of her thrown, but when you're up against a demon, the odds are always against you.  There's more to the battle than they think.  The past is about to repeat itself.  What once was legend is going to be reality.

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CHAPTER 1

Tragedy and Heartache

As she looked on at the rubble and the swirling curls of smoke, she was filled with remorse and memories.  Everything that she once knew was nothing more than burnt ashes now.  Her once proud village had been engulfed in flames by the army led by the Imperial general.  Her race had been a peaceful bunch, sworn only to protect the sacred stone known as the Nazonium crystal, but when the Imperial army found out about the stone, they attacked.  She began to recall the events that had taken place only yesterday, before the army burnt her world to the ground.

            The sun had just risen above the mountains, and the trees swayed in the gentle breeze.  A young girl ran out over the hills next to her village.  Her short pink hair bounced as she ran up the hill.  Her big blue, curious eyes stared over the other side, wondering what the new day would bring.  Her long, catlike tail swayed in the air as she stood there and listened to the many sounds out in the field, her catlike ears never missing a single sound.

"Taiyo!  Where are you!?" called a distinguished, female voice.  The young girl turned around to see who it was.  A woman was walking up the hill.  She wore a long, ceremonial designed dress.  It was striped blue and light purple.  Around her waist was a blue metal brace with small gold gems imbedded in it.  She wore a pair of blue, opened toed sandals.  Her eyes were a deep, majestic shade of purple.  Her skin was a light brown color and her tail was slightly longer and more groomed looking than Taiyo's.  Her two catlike ears had a dark tip.  Her hair was a beautiful lavender shade, seeming almost sky blue at times.  It flowed down her back gracefully.

"Mother, good morning!" yelled Taiyo excitedly.  She appeared to be only about twelve years old at the most.

"What are you doing out here so early?" asked her mother.

"I just wanted to see the sun rise. Isn't it amazing?"

"Yes Taiyo, it's very lovely."  They both looked out over the field for a while, watching the sun paint the sky in many different shades of pink and purple, along with some blue.  "We need to get back to the village," said her mother.  "The coronation is today.  Have you forgotten?"

"No mom," she said with a sigh.  "Even though I'd like to," she mumbled afterwards, making sure her mother didn't hear her.

"Come now.  Let's go see your father," suggested her mother.  She took Taiyo's hand and began to walk with her down the hill and back towards the village. 

Nearby, in a path between the mountains, the general of the Imperial army was rallying her troops.

"Listen up, all of you!" she demanded, her voice harsh.  "This is not a test; it's the real thing, so shut up and pay attention!"  Her troops fell silent, none of them wanting to enrage her further.  "That's better. Now listen up.  We are going after the Nazonium crystal. Remember, if anyone gets in your way, you know what to do!  This is all or nothing.  We must retrieve the crystal at all cost or you know what lady Keytako will do to me!"

"In that case, maybe we should screw up," joked two of the privates.  The general jumped down in front of them, her dark eyes gleaming angrily. 

"Do you question my authority?" she asked them in a cold voice.  "I'm your general, and you will do what I say.  If you don't then I will report you to lady Keytako. Understand!?"

"Ye…yes ma'am," they stuttered, wishing they hadn't opened their mouths in the first place.  The general simply nodded and turned away, looking down the road towards the small village in the distance.  She gave a malicious smile. 

"Let's move out troops!"

            The coronation ceremony was starting for Taiyo, even though she was reluctant to go through with it.  People lined the streets, talking amongst themselves and seeming quite excited for the celebration that wound commence soon.  Taiyo and her mother were sitting in a small room in a small hut nearby the crowded streets. 

"Mother, why do I have to do this?  It's not fun at all," said Taiyo in a whiny voice.

"Taiyo, it has nothing to do with fun," her mother said kindly, ignoring her daughter's tone of voice.  "You are our only daughter, the heir of our race, the princess.  We need you to be the future queen.  Someday, you'll be on your own, and we won't be able to help you. You must be prepared for what is to come."  She reached into a small pouch at her side and drew out a stone.  It was one of the most beautiful things Taiyo had ever seen.  It was a stone that was a little bigger than a Ping-Pong ball, but just as round, if not more perfect.  In it, you could see all the colors of the rainbow.  It resembled an opal in some ways, but was much finer than any other stone. 

"This stone has been handed down through generations, and soon we will entrust it to you," explained her mother.

"Wow, it's so pretty, but are you sure you should give it to me?" asked Taiyo, her eyes curious.

"We wouldn't have it any other way," she answered.  She and Taiyo walked out to the center of the village where everyone was waiting to see their future queen.

"Father, I'm ready," Taiyo said as she approached the leader of the village.  Her mother handed him the stone and then took her place in the chair next to her husband.  They were on a wooden platform in the center of the village so that everyone could see them.  Taiyo's father smiled. 

"Very well, we shall begin the ceremony," he announced.  Taiyo went to sit down next to her mother.  At least I didn't have to dress up or anything, she noted to herself.  She was still wearing her green mini skirt and shorts that were sort of ripped at the bottoms, along with her tank top that was the same way, and also the color green.  She wore her plain old brown boots just like she did everyday.

"Good morning everyone," began her father.  "Today we gather to welcome our future ruler and bestow upon her the sacred stone of our race.  This is a most rejoice full day indeed.  May I present to you, Princess Taiyo."  Everyone clapped and cheered as Taiyo stood up and walked toward her father.  She didn't really want to become a queen, but she really didn't have much of a choice.  She stepped up to receive the stone, happy to at least receive something that seemed worth while.  "We bestow upon you the stone that has been passed from generation to generation, and now, we shall bestow it upon you.  Taiyo, do you except?"  No, I don't, she wanted to say, but I suppose I have to.  Besides, I can't break my mother's heart. 

"I do, father."  She answered him with dignity in her voice, but she was still reluctant.  Being a queen wouldn't be much fun.  Nothing exciting ever happens around here, she thought.  They all began to walk towards the dining hall for the feast that came after the ceremony, but on their way, they saw a huge fire break out near the entrance o their village.  The villagers were in a panic.  Some were running and even screaming. 

"Stay calm everyone, and do what I say," said Taiyo's mother.  "You soldiers get water from the lake and put out the fire.  Women and children, go to the lake.  You'll be safe there."  Everyone started to head for the lake, but as they tried to flee, a huge group of men in uniforms ran up from the direction in which the lake was.  They were blocking the only way there.  The villagers were all trapped inside their village.  The men drew their swords and held them in front of them, threatening the villagers. 

"Lady Fiaho," called one of the village soldiers.   "Get Taiyo and yourself to safety at all cost, and don't worry; we'll hold them off."

"Right, thank you.  Taiyo, this way."  She grabbed her daughter's hand and ran inside the castle.  It was a huge building, made of stone and straw for the roof.  She took Taiyo to the lowest level of the castle.  They ran down into the deepest area and they came to a small room.  Fiaho pushed a small brick in, and part of the wall opened up. 

"Stay here Taiyo; you'll be safe this way," said Fiaho comfortingly.

"But what about you?  Aren't you staying here with me?" she asked her.

"No, I must go and help them fight.  Please try to understand."

"No, you can't leave me!  I want to help too; let me come with you."  Fiaho simply shook her head.

"It's too dangerous for you.  Taiyo, you must live. You are the last chance we have.  You must listen closely to what I'm about to say.  The stone you hold is actually called the Nazonium crystal.  It has extreme power, but only one person can release its full potential.  You must not let it fall into the hands of the enemy.  If you do, it will mean the end of our world as we know it.  Please Taiyo, you must protect it at all costs.  Do you understand?"

"Yes, I do mother.  I will remain right here until you come to get me, ok?"

"Thank you for understanding.  Good bye for now, Taiyo," she said as she slowly closed the wall.

"I love you mother," said Taiyo, her voice shaking.

"I love you too, Taiyo."

            The young princess stayed in the wall for a long time.  So many thoughts went through her head.  Is everyone all right, what happened?  Mother, where are you?  She was so confused.  Why couldn't she come out now?  It should be over, right?   Mother, please come and find me soon, okay?  Eventually, she fell into an uneasy sleep.

She slept for what seemed like hours.  When she finally woke up, she decided to break out.  The small room was starting to feel crowded and she desperately wanted to see what was going on.  She pushed against the wall for a long time, but finally got it open.  She stumbled out onto the floor, scraping up her legs in the process.  She got up slowly, but then proceeded to run up the stairs.  She wasn't prepared for what she would find.  She shoved open the crumbled castle door, which nearly fell apart in the process.  Once it was fully open, she just stood and stared in complete shock and horror. 

Her village was completely burned, not a single hut remaining.  The whole village had been leveled and charred.  The people were all lying in the streets, dead.  She walked through the village to look for her mother.  She saw hundreds of people.  Women and children were laying everywhere, motionless, soaking in poodles of their own crimson blood.  Mothers were holding their infants, but it was obvious that they hadn't been able to protect the children.  She saw the warriors who had fought so bravely to protect the village, but now, they were all quiet.  After an hour, she finally found her mother.  She went over to her, but she found no sign of life in her at all.  Fiaho's beautiful silk dress was stained crimson now, and her eyes were open and lifeless.  In her hand was a crumbled piece of paper.  Taiyo took it and read what it said.

                        Dear Taiyo

The soldiers have bought me some time to write this to you.  It's horrible out here.  I'm glad you didn't have to see this with your own eyes.  If you are reading this, Taiyo, then I never came to get you.  I'm so sorry.  You have to listen to me.  The empress knows about the power of the crystal.  We have been expecting this for a while now.  Don't ever let her get a hold of it.  If you do, it will mean the end for our world.  You must go now.  Go and find the one who can unlock the power of the crystal.  Only then will we all be able to rest in peace.  You are our only hope.   Please do this for us, and be careful about who you trust.  Please remain safe, my daughter, and someday we will meet again.  I promise.

Love,

Mother

"Don't worry mother," she whispered through her tears.  "I promise that I will do everything in my power to protect this crystal.  I swear it."

            That is how she ended up where she is now, staring over the destruction and the mayhem that once occurred here.  She wouldn't let that happen again; she had to do something.  There was a soft rustle behind her. 

"Look, we missed one," noted a rough voice.  "General Koreko told us not to leave any witnesses and we must abide…. huh?"  He paused slightly, his voice sounding slightly amazed.  "Hey, look at that stone she has!  Could it be the Nazonium crystal!?"  Taiyo turned at the mention of the stone she carried in her hands.

"If it is, then we need to get it," stated a second man.  "Hey little girl, that's a nice stone you have there.  Can I see it?" 

"No!  Never!" Taiyo yelled as she ran off as fast as she could.  There was no way she was ever handing it over to anyone.  She turned to look behind her and saw that the two soldiers were now following her.  She had to think of something and fast, but nothing was coming to mind, and the two soldiers were coming closer.

******

            "Hey, Nataki!  Wait up!" called out a high, cheerful voice.  Nataki stopped and turned around, but when she saw no one but a girl named Celes, she just kept walking, her red hair swaying in its high ponytail.  Her hiking boots made her taller than usual, and her baggy gray pants and torn up blue jacket with a black shirt underneath made her look like a tomboy.  She just ignored Celes and kept walking, but the cheerful girl was soon right up next to her. 

"Didn't you hear me calling you?" asked Celes.  Nataki said nothing and just continued walking.  "Come on, why won't you answer me?" she questioned.  However, Nataki still didn't respond to her questioning.  "Come on; please tell me what's wrong.  You can tell me.  Come on, tell me, tell me, tell me, tell me, tell…"  Nataki stopped and turned her cold blue eyes to Celes.

"Will you just shut up and leave me alone!" she yelled at her.  "You're so annoying."

"Big meany.  Fine, be that way; see if I care."  Celes turned and started back, but not before yelling at Nataki.  "You know, you're only 17!   Why don't you act like it for a change!"  Nataki just turned and began to walk away.  Soon, Celes was nothing more than a speck in the distance.  Nataki was alone again.  Who needs her?  I'm better off alone anyway, she decided.  Nataki continued to walk away from her town and through the small forest just outside of it.  She soon ended up in the wide plains that were located just outside the forest.  About a few more miles that way was the village that belonged to the Castrian race. 

As she continued to walk along, something near by her exploded, causing the plains to echo with the explosion and shake with the velocity of the impact.  Nataki quickly turned in the direction it came from.  Flying through the air was a young girl who seemed to resemble a cat.  She screamed in pain as she hit the ground and skidded for a few feet.  She then slowly pushed herself up to her knees, rubbing her swore shoulder.  

"Man, that really hurt," she said to herself.  She turned to face Nataki, who just sort of stood there, staring in surprise and curiosity. 

"Where did she go?" asked a rough sounding voice.  "She has to be around here somewhere.  If we screw up this time, we're history."  A man then appeared in the clearing, followed by another.  They wore the dull gray and blue uniforms that members of the Imperial army often wore.  Taiyo tried to get back to her feet but the two soldiers noticed her right away. 

"There she is!" shouted the second man.  "Shoot her!  Shoot her now!"  The first man positioned a decent sized cannon on his shoulder.

"Someone please help me!" cried the girl just as the shot rang out.  It was a head on collision shot; it exploded right where she was sitting.  "Yes!  We finally got her!" said the second man triumphantly.  The smoke settled, but she wasn't there.  "What's going on?  Where is she?  There's no way anyone could have escaped that; it was a head on shot."  They looked around, and soon enough, they saw how she had escaped.  Nataki stood a little ways off, holding the now unconscious girl. 

"What!?  How'd you manage to get to her?"  Nataki narrowed her ice cold eyes dangerously.

"Like I'd tell you," she said as she turned and ran.

"Hey, you get back here right now!"

"Yeah right, like I'm going to listen to you!"  They started to chase after her as she ran through the plains.  They were slowly gaining on her.  As she ran, her mind was racing with questions.  What am I doing?  This is none of my business.  She glanced back at the two men running after her.  Well, I've already gotten involved, so I can't stop now, but I can't keep running forever.   Nataki was almost in their reach.  She had to do something fast.  She ran behind a tree and set Taiyo down.  She was still unconscious, so Nataki didn't have to worry about her going anywhere.  Nataki stepped out from behind the tree.  The soldiers had now caught up to her and stopped within a few feet. 

"What do you think you're doing?  This is none of your business," said one of the soldiers.

"Say what you will, but I'm not going anywhere," stated Nataki.  At this time, Taiyo was starting to come to.  She looked around the corner of the tree to see what was going on.  Nataki glanced at her.  "Hey you, stay there and let me handle this," she said to her.

"Are you sure you don't need my help?" asked Taiyo.

"Don't worry, I'll be fine.  Just stay there."  The soldiers were getting a little irritated, since they were being ignored right now.

"Look, just hand her over and we'll let you go," said the first man.  Nataki turned her hard eyes to them. 

"Not a chance," she said arrogantly.

"Why you little…Fire!"  A shot rang out and a huge ball of fire blasted from the gun he carried.  It headed straight for Nataki, but she easily jumped up high enough to avoid it.

"Aw, a magic cannon," she noted.  "So you do have some talent, but I can't say the same about your aim."  She landed back on the ground with ease and then stood back up to her full height.

"Girl, you'll pay for that!"  The other soldier let out a powerful blast of yellow colored magic from his hand, but Nataki just dodged that too.

"So, we have a sorcerer and a gunman; this should be interesting."  She landed once again, but this time she ran up to the one with the gun and easily kicked it out of his hand before he noticed it.  "What the heck!  How did she move so fast!" he yelled, as his gun went flying in one direction.  She quickly got in front of him and did a spin kick to his head.  She was incredibly fast.  The man went down hard and didn't show signs of getting back up. 

"You are so dead!" yelled the other man.  He prepared yet another lightning spell and threw the yellow colored sphere at her.  It looked like it would hit her, but she quickly jumped up again and soared through the air towards him.  She landed perfectly, feet first, on his head.  As she did, she jumped off again, then gracefully and smoothly, front flipped onto the ground in perfect formation.  The man had been shoved into the ground by the force.  Both soldiers were now face down on the ground, dazed and completely knocked out.  Nataki just stood there and smiled, proud of her work. 

"That was amazing!" yelled the younger girl. She ran up to Nataki.  "Wow, where'd you learn how to do that?"

"It's none of your business.  Who are you anyway?"

"Oh, my name is Taiyo, from the Castrian tribe."  This got Nataki's attention.

"What!  You're a Castrian?!" she exclaimed.

"Yep."

"Well, why are you all alone?  Are you lost?"

"No, I'm alone because…."

"Well, what?"

"I'm the only one left."  This shocked Nataki.

"But…how can that be?  The Castrian tribe has been one of the strongest races for generations.  What happened?"

"Well, it happened just yesterday.  We were in the middle of the coronation ceremony.   We were about to go celebrate when we saw a fire break out.  We tried to escape to the lake, but the Imperial army came and blocked our exits.  We had no way out.  The only reason I survived was because my mother used the hidden passage under the castle to get away.  She hid me in a small room that was in the passage.  She left after she made sure I was safe.  She never came back for me.  I was in there for what felt like an entire day.  When I finally got out, everyone was gone."  Nataki thought for a moment.  How could her mother know about the passage under the castle?  Unless…

"Hey, is your mother by any chance the queen Fiaho?"

"Yes."  Nataki was slightly shocked, but she didn't show it.   So that's why she knew where it was.  "I have nothing left back there," continued Taiyo, "so I'm going on a journey.  My mother told me that if anything was to happen, that I should leave the village.  It's very important that I find the person that my mom told me about.  She said that this person would be able to save us."  She thought for a while and then seemed to perk up.  "Hey, I just got an idea.  Why don't you come with me?  I could really use your help."

"Sounds tempting, but no thanks," Nataki answered.

"But why not?"

"Because I've got a life.  I can't just pick up and leave.  Sorry," she said as she turned around and began to walk away, leaving Taiyo behind her.  She walked back towards her town, going slowly through the forest.  As she did, she thought about what just happened.  It would be fun to go on a journey for once, but I have a life here.  I don't need anyone anyway.  I'm just fine on my own.  It would be nice though.  Hmm…so that girl, Taiyo, is the princess?  How odd.  I can't believe that Fiaho fell so easily.  And just what is the Imperial army up to?  The last I heard, they had disbanded.  What is going on here? 

She continued to walk through the forest.  As she would near the end of the forest, it would open up to her town.  She would go back to her martial arts class, and life would return to normal again.  As she got closer, she heard something explode up ahead.  As it hit, the entire forest shook, including Nataki. 

"What was that?" she wondered aloud.  Everything was silent.  "Something's wrong," she said.  She started to sprint.  She had to get back as fast as she could, and following her, a curious Taiyo wasn't too far behind.

            Nataki was running as fast as she could.  She had to make it back to her town.  Something is seriously wrong.  What is going on here?

As she entered the clearing, she saw nothing but fire.  Everything was in ruins.  The flames seemed to scorch the sky, painting it a blood red color.  A huge black cloud of smoke was accumulating above the town.  The heat from the flames and the smell of the smoke was making Nataki feel sick.  She looked around a little more, horrified at the sight.  There weren't many buildings still standing.  Then, as her eyes fell to the center of the town, she saw her.  It was the leader of the Imperial army.  She sat on her black horse, watching the mayhem, a twisted smile on her face. 

Nataki quickly got behind a short wall that was still partially standing.   She stayed where she was so she wouldn't be noticed.  She looked around a little more, her eyes coming to rest on a young girl hiding behind a piece of what was once the wall of a house.  She held a sword in her hands.  She looked as if she was ready to charge at the general.  She seemed familiar to Nataki, but it was hard to see who it was through all the smoke.  She looked about 15 and had strawberry colored hair, sort of like Nataki's, except it hung loosely down to her shoulders.  Her blue dress was short and she wore big hiking boots.  Her deep blue eyes were filled with rage as she stared at the general.  She stood up and charged at full speed toward her.  Nataki then realized who she was. 

"Ashiko," she whispered in shock.  "What does she think she's doing?  She'll be killed!"  She clenched her fist.  "I can't let anything happen to her."  The girl, Ashiko, continued to rush forward, eyes clouded by rage.  The general noticed her and let her keep coming.  When she got close enough, Ashiko swung the sword.  The general was expecting it.  She caught the sword in her gloved hand, being careful of the blade.  She just smiled at Ashiko.  She whipped the sword out of Ashiko's hands and then grabbed her.  Nataki couldn't take this anymore. 

"Ashiko!" she called out.  She ran right out into the mayhem caused by the burning of the town.  She had to save Ashiko, no matter what.  The general saw her coming.  She faced Nataki as she ran closer, a smirk on her dark face.  She threw out Ashiko so that she was facing Nataki, still standing.  The general was now behind her.  She drew her sword.  Nataki stared on in fear. 

The general, with one swift motion, stabbed Ashiko through the stomach.  Ashiko's eyes went wide as the pain seared through her.  She continued to stare, her black pupils dilating.  Nataki kept running, but she now had fear in her eyes at this sight.  Ashiko stood still, the sword of the general still jabbed through her.  It was painful, but she managed to rasp out a few words. 

"Nataki…" she whispered, "I'm so sorry."  The general pulled her sword out and Ashiko fell to the ground limply.

"Ashiko!" yelled Nataki.  She had gotten there too late.  She knelt down next to Ashiko.  She just stared at her motionless body.  Tears started to roll down her cheeks, but she remained silent.  The general just sat there, laughing. 

"Stop…laughing," said Nataki in a harsh and angry voice.  She felt rage taking hold of her.  She clenched her fists, hoping that she would be able to do something. 

Nearby, Taiyo watched the horror unfold before her.  She remembered how it felt when she lost her entire village.  The anger started to boil inside her, but she simply remained quiet and watched as Nataki simply stood there, her back to the general. 

Everything Nataki had once known was now lost forever.  She thought about all those who had died, most probably trying to protect the town.  She wouldn't let their deaths be in vain.  She swore that she would get revenge. 

"How dare you?  Why did you attack our town?  Why?" she demanded of the general, turning around to face her.

"I have a very special mission to accomplish.  Since you will die soon, I guess I might as well enlighten you.  We are searching for the Nazonium crystal."

"What? Nazonium crystal?  What's that?"

"It holds the key powers of this world, and possibly many others.  We will use it to obtain full control of this world."

"I can't let you do that."

"Oh yeah?  What can you do?"

Nataki stood there, thinking.  What can I do?  I have to live.  The general withdrew her sword once again.  She was about to kill Nataki, when a voice rang out.

"Fire!"

A huge ball of fire flew towards them.  Nataki ducked out of the way.  The fireball smacked into the general.  It was a direct hit.  She fell off of her black horse and onto the ground.  Nataki turned around to see where it came from.  The voice seemed familiar to her.  She looked around.  Not too far away, she spotted someone.  It was Taiyo.  She stood on top of a huge pile of rubble. 

"Taiyo, did you do that?" she asked the younger girl.

"Yep," she answered, obviously pleased with her accomplishment.  The general started to get up, brushing off her uniform.

"You," she snarled at Taiyo.  "You're a Castrian!  How did you survive?!"

"Like I'm going to tell you!" shouted Taiyo angrily.  The general turned to her men.

"Listen up troops!  We're leaving, now!  Hurry up!"  She turned back to Nataki and Taiyo.  "We will settle this later."  And with that, she got on her horse and rode off, her men following her out of the burning town.  Nataki stood there for a while and simply watched as the flames slowly died down.  She turned to Taiyo, who was still standing on the pile of rubble. 

"So you can use magic.  Why didn't you do that when you were being chased by the soldiers?" she asked, curious.

"Because they had magic shields on.  I tried, but it didn't work."  She jumped down from the rock pile.  "I'm going to go look for some survivors."  She ran off into the burned town.  Nataki just stood there.  She looked down at Ashiko, who lay motionless on the ground. 

"Ashiko," she said softly, still with tears in her eyes.  If only I had gotten here sooner.  She turned her head away in dismay.

******

A while had passed since the general had come.  Nataki went to the plains outside of the town.  She stood in front of a large rock in the ground.  Flowers were all around it.  She stood there silently as she spoke softly. 

"Ashiko, it wasn't your fault.  I'm the one who should be sorry.  I didn't help you when I could have.  I should have stopped you, but I didn't.  I'm the one to blame.  You didn't deserve this.  I wish it could have been me."  She just stood there, the tears rolling down her cheeks.  She couldn't remember the last time she had cried.  Taiyo slowly approached her from behind.

"She was important to you, wasn't she," she said as she approached her.  Nataki turned to face her.

"Yeah, she was my sister.  She was the only family I had left.  I promised mom that I would watch over her."

"You shouldn't sulk like that.  She wouldn't want you to feel like this.  It was her own decision."  Nataki looked a little relieved.  She was silent for a while as she just stood there, thinking about what to do next.  After a long time, she finally spoke.  "Taiyo?" she asked quietly.

"Yes?" questioned Taiyo back.  Nataki turned towards the Castrian.

"I…would like to go with you on your journey,"

"Really?"

"Yes."

"Ok, we can leave tomorrow if that's alright with you,"

"That's fine."

"Nataki."

"Yes?"

"Thank you."

"For what?"

"For saving me back there, and for deciding to travel with me.  It's no fun to be alone."

************************************************************************

Next Chapter:  Taiyo:  We're finally on our way.  We've reached the city of Reno, where we nearly get ripped off by some guy.  Nataki made short work of him though.  Apparently, we're here looking for someone that Nataki knows.  Wait a second…what was that?  It's Koreko!  And there's that guy again.  Wait…who's this other woman, and what's with that stone on her head?